THE British government said it had no plans to re-examine a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya after oil company BP confirmed it had lobbied its predecessor on the issue.
US politicians angry with BP over a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico want to know if the company played a role in securing the release of a Libyan convicted of the 1988 bombing of a US airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
Scottish authorities, who have broad legal powers, released Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset al-Megrahi last year because they believed he had only three months to live. Megrahi is still alive and living in Tripoli. His doctor recently admitted Megrahi could survive for many years ahead.
“To be absolutely clear, the release of Megrahi was a decision based upon compassionate grounds and was unrelated to discussions with Libya regarding prisoner transfers,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said. “There are no plans to review the PTA.”
Cameron, who took office in May and will meet US President Barack Obama in Washington today, has said he thought the decision to free Megrahi was wrong.
BP has confirmed it lobbied the Labour government over prisoner transfers because it was concerned a slow resolution would impact an offshore drilling deal with Libya. However, it has said it was not involved in discussions concerning the release of Megrahi, sentenced to life for an attack that killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.
The agreement was signed in April 2009, but not used to send Megrahi back to Libya.
Cameron’s office has tried to play down the concern, saying the US debate over how the terminally ill Libyan was allowed to return home “may come up”, but is not a “major issue”.
Cameron said that, as the opposition leader at the time, he thought the release decision was “completely and utterly wrong”. He said Megrahi was convicted “of being the biggest mass murderer in British history. I saw no case for releasing him from prison and I said that a year ago, remember, a year ago when we were all told, of course, he had only two months to live”.
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